Focus12 success stories to head campaign for region

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A YOUNG man who is 17 months clean and sober is helping to raise awareness of funding problems drug rehabilitation centres, such as the one that helped him, are facing.

Oliver Phillips, known as Ollie, started dabbling with drugs at around 15-years-old. By the age of 21 he was heavily addicted to heroin.

But with the help of Focus12, a charity in Bury St Edmunds that delivers abstinence-based rehabilitation programmes, the 26-year-old has managed to turn his life around.

And he has been appointed East of England chairman for Rehab Grads, a scheme which aims to recruit a network of ex-users to a campaign to ensure centres receive a ‘fairer slice’ of available funding, following the closure of 31 centres in the last two years.

Ollie, one of the last few people in Suffolk to receive funding to attend Focus12 before a change in the way funding was distributed in the area, said: “I strongly believe that everybody should have the chance of abstinence- based treatment. I don’t think it should be forced on anyone but, if someone wants it, there should be funding available.

“It’s been my experience that replacing one drug for another doesn’t address the underlying problems – I don’t see it as a long-term solution.”

Now in a stable relationship, living in his own place and working for Focus12 as an out-of-hours care co-ordinator, Ollie is able to reflect on some of his darker days, spent at the height of his addiction.

Having sold all of his possessions to fund an £80 a day habit, he was in rent arrears, unable to heat his London bedsit and shoplifting on a regular basis.

He said: “Addiction, in many forms, took me to some very dark places. After 10 years in active addiction I ended up with nothing to my name and on a large methadone prescription.

“I was in a desperate state and feeling utterly hopeless – after reaching a point in my life where the pain of staying the same became greater than the pain of change, I asked for help at Focus12.”

On his new role, which will involve him travelling to other centres in the region and has already required him to contact 700 of Focus12’s ex-clients, he said: “It’s definitely daunting but it’s something I feel strongly about and I’m enjoying being involved in it.”

Fellow Focus12 success story, Lillie Marnie, 23, has been appointed East of England Rehab Grads secretary.